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At the Roundhouse

Daily roundups of the N.M. legislative session by John Robertson

At the Roundhouse: Confirmation playbook

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Hanna Skandera won’t be the first Cabinet nominee to be grilled by the New Mexico Senate.attheroundhouse-150x150

And while the Senate apparently will have a couple of field days questioning Skandera’s qualifications to be Republican Gov. Susana Martinez’s public education secretary, the fact is that New Mexico governors have in the past found ways to circumvent Senate opposition.

The Senate has refused, one way or another, to confirm seven top governor nominees since 1989.

Democrats were in control of the Senate all of that time, and most of the confirmation failures came during the administrations of Republican Govs. Gary Johnson and Garrey Carruthers.

Johnson, in fact, named seven people over his two terms to head up the state’s Human Services Department. With since-imprisoned Sen. Manny Aragon, D-Albuquerque, then dominating the Senate, and big beefs going on over the administration of Medicaid and welfare programs, most of those department heads never were confirmed.

Carruthers and Johnson found a way to ignore  Senate objections.

Senate Democrats in 1989 rejected Carla Muth as Carruthers’ nominee for health and environment secretary. Carruthers simply arranged for Muth to run the department day-to-day as deputy secretary.

Johnson nominated Robin Dozier Otten as Human Services Department secretary in 2000 but later withdrew her name when it became clear the Senate would not confirm her. But Otten then ran the department as deputy secretary and later, after a reappointment by Johnson, as secretary designate.

Deputy secretaries aren’t subject to Senate confirmation in New Mexico. At the federal level, they are.

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